Help a BA! What can a BA in the Print Media World do?

A reader writes in….
I am a software designer with 2 yrs experience in developing web based applications for a large software house. I am looking to further my career in Business Analysis. I have a keen interest in print media as well. Business Analyst have a very important part to play in IT but I have always wondered what part they could play in print media. Additionally what kind of role could a BA play in helping a publication house achieve its goals – with and without the use of IT. I know this might be a different kind of question but I have not been able to find an answer to it anywhere. Hope you can help.

Doug’s answer

Having come up through corporate communications in the print media world, though limited, I thought I’d field this question. Print media is one of many categories in the media world and each one has its own challenges, problems and advantages. So when looking at one particular aspect of any industry, I think it’s good to start with what the goal or purpose of that industry is. For print media, it’s probably “service the customer by publishing valuable content in a timely fashion” or something like that. In order to achieve the goal, one should march backward from the end point to define what must be satisfied and put into place in order to attain it. Using the reader’s example of print media and my guess at its goal, allow me to illustrate my thought process here.

End State: Publish (service the customer by publishing valuable content in a timely fashion)
Prior activity: Print content
Prior activity: Deliver paper and Setup Printer
Prior activity: Process content through pre-production
Prior activity: Obtain approval for printing
Prior activity: Design publication and proof
Prior activity: Write Content
Prior activity: Research and Interview
Start State: Ideation

Using this basic, and rudimentary set of activities that start with a thought and end with a document of some sort, we can look at the process of how all this happens a little more closely by stringing the activities together in order of occurrence and assigning roles to each one. Then, we can review the flow of the order (the process flow) to try to define obstacles, bottlenecks, fault locations, etc. We can also look for glaring issues that exist and attempt to perform a root cause analysis of why something is happening. For example, let’s say that a series of complaints has come in regarding warped magazines or something. Reviewing the above list, we can pretty well eliminate the bottom six activities as culprits of the issue. Further discovery of why that happened might have an analyst look at the method of transport from print facility to merchandiser, quality of paper, print facility atmospheric environment and all those entities might not uncover anything. Only when the analyst looks at the transport from the paper mill to the print facility (which, by the way is a newly discovered activity) might the analyst find that the paper was exposed to excessive moisture. This is just an example, but it highlights how an analysis effort can be employed to identify issues that impact satisfaction, which impact cost, which impacts profit, which keeps all these pieces of the puzzle operating.

Any industry and any process is a candidate for this type of effort, and often the best people to work on them are the people right in the middle of everything. This is how business analysts are born many times out of frustrating or problematic circumstances. These people are often power users or key employees or customers that have a keen insight into where the problem exists and how to resolve it. Combine this knowledge with an understanding of how to analyze and/or model processes and you have a great business analyst!

I hope this answers the reader’s questions and I look forward to hearing anyone’s thoughts on this post.

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  1. Oops, sorry Michael, I should have said @ Doug

  2. @ Michael :
    ” End State: Publish (service the customer by publishing valuable content in a timely fashion) ”

    To which I would emphasize the addition of the word ‘ ACCURATE ‘

    When a mistake is made electronically (websites, blogs), it can be easily changed. Once it goes out to print, it cannot be retracted.

    Understandably, this may be the domain of the proof-reader or another SME, but the BA should be made expressly aware of the dollar damage an error can have on the credibility and professionalism of the publication.

  3. Mike:

    Excellent points in your reply. You should have written the original post!

  4. mike Lachapelle says

    Doug and your enquiring reader;

    Allow me to extend the possibilities. There is also a role for a BA to work at the strategic level (enterprise business analysis) helping the business understand and perhaps innovate its business model. In addition to all the work that can be done at the operational level, as you have nicely covered, a BA who has been trained (or trained themself) in strategic and business modelling can have lots of possibilities.

    In client zone, the BA can assist the company in reviewing its product-market fit, helping to identify new or improve client-value propositions, i.e. what customers want to buy, and discover new clients. There is always analysis needed in the business channel strategies of the firm, how do customers do business with you and how do you communication with them (web, sales force, mobile). The obvious objective here to create or extend revenue streams for the company.

    In the infrastructure zone the BA can spend time analysing the resource and key activities of the company from a capabilities perspective. Then there is partnerships and open innovation as a way to reduce business costs and extend capabilities. Here we can also focus on cost reductions to improve the bottom line, with a direct connection the kind of analysis you have mentioned above.

    Before the advent of information technology a business analyst did just what the title suggests, analyse the way the business operated. This meant understanding the internal workings of the business (processes, supply chain, resources) and its external operations (its connection to the market and the clients in that market). So go ahead, cast of the chains of IT and re-think your role with the business.



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